Santa Monica

Jesse Gomez has come a long way from El Arco Iris, his grandparents’ six table Mexican institution in Highland Park. The Eastside native opened the stylish Yxta Cocina Mexicana near Little Tokyo in 2009; now he’s aiming even higher with the dashing Mercado, situated across the street from Border Grill. Chef Jose Acevedo uses handmade tortillas and farmers’ market finds to interpret the varied cuisines of Mexico: slow-cooked carnitas with cauliflower escabeche, pork empanadas made with plantain masa, Mexican craft beer-battered fish tacos. Playful tequila cocktails complete the meal. » 1416 4th St., 310-526-7121